Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value (money, possessions or property) on an event that is determined at least partly by chance. This activity can cause problems for many people and can have a serious impact on their health, relationships, work or studies, and may even lead to homelessness. If you think that someone you know is gambling dangerously, it is important to seek help for them. Getting the right kind of help can stop the problem worsening, and there are treatments available. It is also important to learn more about how gambling affects the brain, and factors that may cause problematic gambling behaviour.
Why do people gamble? People gamble for many reasons – for the thrill of winning money, to socialise with friends, or to relieve boredom or stress. Some people have a genetic tendency to gamble, and research suggests that gambling can trigger feelings of euphoria in the same way as drugs do. These feelings are caused by the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is involved in the reward system of the brain. This makes it hard to stop gambling, and people can become addicted to the feeling of pleasure.
Some forms of gambling are illegal and others are not, but all gambling involves an element of risk. There are different types of gambling, such as betting on football accumulators, horse races or political elections; playing bingo or lottery games; and other activities where skill is used to improve the chances of winning.
People are more likely to experience harmful gambling if they have a mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety. They may also be more prone to gambling if they have been exposed to risky or stressful situations in the past, such as a relationship break-up, debt, financial crisis or job loss.
It is important to remember that your loved one did not choose to gamble and that they are not responsible for their addiction. Harmful gambling can be a way to avoid dealing with other problems or to cope with distress, but it is not an effective solution. There are much healthier ways to relieve unpleasant emotions, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or learning relaxation techniques.
You should try to understand why your loved one is gambling, and why they find it difficult to quit. Understanding their thoughts and feelings can help you talk to them about their problem and encourage them to seek treatment or support. Remember, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat gambling disorders, but counselling can help people think about their problems and consider options. Counselling can also address coexisting mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. In addition, there are support groups and self-help tips that can be useful for overcoming problem gambling.